Hi B Bar (Hibernian)

Headed into town last night to continue the Munster Pubs alphabetical pub crawl. Since we finished with The Gables bar we started at H and Hi B bar on Oliver Plunkett Street. From the stories that i have heard and read about this bar it is most certainly a Cork institution. We went in last night just after 8pm. We followed a big group of people up the stairs and into the bar. First impressions: my grandmothers sitting room! The Hi B bar is just basically a one room bar that is like no other that i have visited in Cork. The smallest pub that we had been to is Pat Buckleys on Mulgrave Road but this pub is as small. We got a seat just inside the door on the left as that was the only seat available. The place was very busy and there was a mixture of younger and older people here. The red leather seats are interesting as is the memorabilia on the walls. I ordered a Murphy’s and a draft Bulmers and the Murphy’s was not great but ok.

I was wary heading in with a mobile phone in my pocket as the owner apparently doesn’t like them! I actually switched it onto silent just in case. I have heard many stories about Brian (the landlord) and his rules. The toilets are absoloutely tiny with one cubicle available. I was talking to a local and he told me that there would be uproar if anything in the pub was changed, it just wouldn’t be accepted. If you want a very different experience in a Cork city centre pub then check out the Hi B bar across from the GPO.

Toilet rating: 6.5/10
Pint rating: 6/10
Overall rating: 7/10

Final comment: I have wanted to visit this bar for a long while and enjoyed the experience. i didn’t find it to be the friendliest bar around but it is worth heading in for a pint.

12 thoughts on “Hi B Bar (Hibernian)

  1. I worked in the Hi-B for 2 years while living in Cork. It is characterized by its eccentric owner and great friend of mine, Brian O’Donnell. There are only 2 moods that Brian ever experiences – one is charismatic, charming, highly intelligent and the other is, dark, fierce and rather bombastic …a jekyll and hyde sort of personality. Many of the locals will remember me (either as Ray or ‘that american girl’- albeit i am Canadian and i would often express this with great delectation.
    I would like to share one of the funniest experiences that i had whilst working in the Hi-b; one lovely Saturday afternoon I was tending bar with Brian crashing around behind me and sipping his Hennessey Brandy, when in comes a man with a lady on his arm. Then gentleman had the cheek to wear a tie that was offensive to our fearless and inebriated leader and to top it off he ordered a pint. Well Brian marched right up to him and asked to view his tie a little closer, the man leaned further over the bar for Brians inspection. Brian took the tie in his one hand and a pair of scissors in the other, snipped the tie in half and shoved it in his shirt pocket announcing; “there, now you have a handkerchief to go with that ghastly tie.” “Now get out of my bar and dont come back making a statement like that again.”
    The jacks were always disgusting, we never had ice and ran out of stock all the time…but never and i do mean never have I had the good luck to run into such a dynamic, talented, intellectual such as Brian is. For those of you that have been offended…you have been touched by the Jekyll of the Hi-B, for those of you that have laughed have experienced Mr. Hyde. I was fired and hired by both these men at least once a week in a 2 year span…the stories, the stories.

  2. The Hi-b is without doubt the gem of Cork’s pubs (not too hard nowadays). If you are the kind of person that is interested in the little details of life, the characters that we encounter all too rarely, bizzare conversation, informed eclectic music then I have a feeling this could be the pub you have always been looking for. The feeling I get when I walk through the door is the same one I felt when I first walked in. A mixture of trepidation, excitment and most of all a feeling of ‘place’. I know some of you understand what I’m talking about. The hi-b is very much a place you either ‘get’ or don’t. My girlfriend hates the place, fair enough, too bad for her. It’s better for me as I love going nothing more than going in there on my own. I implore any vistor to Cork to go there, especially alone and get a seat at the counter, some of you will leave, some of you will take the place with you and hopefully leave something of yourself there.

  3. While on a business trip to Cork in July I had the great pleasure of visiting the Hi-B bar.
    Myself along with 20 or so co-workers crowded in one evening ( to the locals surprise or disdain, I found later in the evening, very surprised ).
    What a night! Though the place is absolutely tiny, 2 pints and 10 songs ( thanks to the lovely lady at the organ ) I felt like I really belonged there. The locals made us all feel very welcome and at closing even joined us at another pub down the street.
    I will definitly be returning to the Hi-B the next time I am in Cork.

  4. Easily the best pub in the city, the Beamish is good, Brian is a bit fussy, at times and the locals are some of the greatest charachters Cork City has to offer!!!!

  5. Here’s a tip. Go into the Hi-B and sing Unionist songs. Sing God Save the Queen, No Pope of Rome etc. It hilarious, they will shout and roar at you and probably kick you out and that makes it all worthwhile!

  6. A brilliant bar, unspoiled by any sort of progress. Greater, far greater, than the sum of its parts. Beamish unbeatable. Perched at left, at the bar, by the window, I thought not about how far behind the Hi-B was, but of how far wrong it showed most of its competition, anywhere to be. I was in there only for two hours, but they were a good two. GO!

  7. ur tout à fait raison , Merci d’avoir pris cette occasion pour s’entretenir à ce sujet , Je suis impatient de lire d’autres dans un proche avenir!

  8. I was absolutley amazed to hear that the hi-b bar had to import a
    piano player from germany, albeit one that was trained by the pope’s
    brother. but now that i have listened to the high caliber of his
    piano playing and his entertaining banter, I can see why!
    However i do find he does his best work after consuming
    a generous number of “murphies”. I presume he has aquired a
    taste for it after drinking a lot of bavarian wheat beer in his
    homeland. I do hope, he’ll become a permanent fixture of
    the hiberian!

  9. I used the HiB bar in 1999 when I was working for a while in Cork City. Brian O’Donnell was exactly as descibed and at times hilarious. Brian and I went together to Oliver Reed’s funeral in Churchtown spending a morning an afternoon and early evening in O’Brien’s bar directly opposite the graveyard. Reed’s grave had been pre-selected such that it faced the door of the pub which I though was wonderful bit of innovation by the superb movie star.
    Brian’s daughter gave us a lift back later and managed to keep her dad under control which was amazing. We were great friends on the day and a week or so later I was banned from the HiB and after 2 weeks I was allowed back in as if nothing had happened – crazy not really and just put it down to Brian’s lunar experiences – a great guy.

    Bob Evans

  10. Well, it was interesting to read the comments that other people have left about this establishment, and more particularly about the “unusual” owner! I must say, I had a very unpleasant experience with this man last evening. It was a very special birthday for my aunt, and I had come from Canada to celebrate with her. We had a beautiful meal in town at Electric and then my aunt and her two friends wanted to show me an authentic Irish pub. It was just after 11 pm when we arrived to the Hi B. Part of the celebration was really to congratulate my aunt for her continued strength as she goes through her chemotherapy. I went up to the bar to order some drinks, and the other ladies went to sit down. There was a lovely group of musicians who smiled at us as we came in. A man approached and of course, not being local, I didn’t know who he was. He said to me something about “gratuitously insulting” and I just figured he was an inebriated patron so I kind of just smiled and turned towards the barmaid. He said it again to me, but I didn’t pick up anything other than the “gratuitously insulting” part again and I couldn’t figure out why he was talking to me or what it was about. I asked the barmaid for whatever drinks we were trying to get and she said to me, “Sorry, the owner won’t allow you to order any drink” or something to that affect. I was stunned. I must say, as eccentric as a person may be, what on earth has he a public establishment if he is going to treat locals and visitors in that manner? Everyone in the bar just sort of looked at us as we shuffled out, not understanding why we were being barred. I think he should just invite who he wants into his own quarters and give up being a bar owner. Granted, we didn’t spend the evening there, but is there any law against coming into an establishment towards the end of the night for a beverage? That type of boorish behaviour certainly wouldn’t happen in Toronto and it was a shameful way to treat people, regardless of where they are from or what medical conditions they are dealing with. Needless to say, I won’t be darkening that door again, not that it would bother him. We continued along the way to The Oliver Plunkett and had a few drinks there, where we were welcomed warmly. We enjoyed the musicians who did a great rendition of George Michael’s “Freedom” which at this point, we truly felt – freedom from the crotchety man at The Hibernian 🙁

  11. Look, I can quite understand and sympathise with your comment, but most people who went to the bar knew about Brian O’Donnell in advance, and only went there to get kicked out and tell a story about it afterwards. When I visited it, way back in the mid 90s, I was living in Sudan and I knew two guys from Cork. When I told them I was going to Ireland on holiday (I’m Irish too, but from Clare) they told me I should visit the Hi B and don’t be in the least surprised if Brian O’Donnell kicked me out. I went there with my South African Jewish girlfriend. BO’D wasn’t in the bar initially, so we ordered drinks and sat down without incident. He came in a bit later, noticed us instantly, and came and sat and talked with us. He was fairly knowledgeable and talked about Scotch malt whisky and the Three Tenors. He was obviously looking for an opportunity to throw us out, but I deflected one of his would-be jibes with a joke, and he said sadly as he realised I wasn’t going to argue with him “You know I’ve just been to the funeral of a close friend, and I’m not on form tonight.” It seemed he was almost apologising for not kicking us out. He went back to the bar as it got busy, and soon got involved in two verbal fracas, kicking out a couple after one and a group of young guys in their twenties after the other. Judging by the smirks on their faces they had come there expecting and hoping for just that. We slipped away – my girlfriend said “Actually I think he’s rather a sad character. Why misuse obvious intelligence to behave like that?”

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